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Young Giant hops to it in bid for round one berth

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Jacob will play today, then train next week to maybe put his hand up for round one
Leon Cameron

HIGHLY rated midfielder Jacob Hopper will play his first game of the year when Greater Western Sydney takes on Sydney in a reserves practice match on Friday afternoon.

Hopper has had an interrupted summer after undergoing heart surgery in the off-season and has been managed in recent weeks with a back issue.

The club is keen to be cautious with the 20-year-old after he missed a large chunk of 2016 with back stress fractures.

Hopper, the Giants' top pick at the 2015 NAB AFL Draft, has stepped up his training load over the past fortnight, and looked fit and powerful while doing extra conditioning work after the team's main session on Tuesday.

GWS coach Leon Cameron confirmed Hopper would play at least a half of footy against the Swans' reserves, and remained a chance to face Adelaide in round one, when GWS travels to Adelaide Oval.

"He'll kick off his campaign today and hopefully he can get through, he's trained really well and he's looking forward to playing," Cameron said ahead of the Giants' JLT Community Series clash against North Melbourne in Canberra on Friday evening.

"We'll probably have a really hard session next Friday or Saturday to round our preparation off for the Adelaide game, and Jacob will play today, then train next week to maybe put his hand up for round one.

"One or two players that are playing at Tom Wills Oval today will definitely put their hands up, so the pressure is on for spots. 

"Hopefully we'll have a really good performance against North Melbourne and those guys can pencil themselves in for next week." 

Cameron was on hand in Canberra to announce a name change for the Giants' home base in the nation's capital, with Manuka Oval to be known as UNSW Canberra Oval during the footy season for the next three years.

Two of the club's three games at the venue were sellouts in 2016, with 13,656 fans packing in to see GWS beat Geelong in round two, and 14,974 witnessing the club thrash Richmond in round 19, while just over 10,000 saw the Giants' easy win over Port Adelaide in round four.

The Giants have now won five of their past six games in Canberra and Cameron said it was extremely important for the club to maintain that good record against the North Melbourne in their last pre-season fixture on Friday night.

"The Kangaroos have shown some pretty good form over the JLT Series, they've knocked off the Swans and the Hawks," he said.

"Hopefully we get through the game unscathed and you need these matches to get a really hard hit out.

"We want to play a brand tonight that we can take into the season proper, and we've got a couple of guys that are coming off limited pre-seasons, but we've got a pretty full squad, so we expect a really strong performance. 

"It's always a great atmosphere down here and it'll be no different tonight."